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Meal Planning Tips for People with Type 2 Diabetes

Putting It All Together

-- By Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian

If you have diabetes, SparkPeople highly recommends that you work directly with a Registered Dietitian or Certified Diabetes Educator to receive comprehensive training in diabetes self-management. Together you can develop a diabetes meal plan based on your health goals, tastes, and lifestyle—as well as the latest guidelines for healthy eating. Below are examples of two different meal planning systems; your registered dietitian can help you decide which is best for you.

1. Carbohydrate Counting is the most accurate meal planning system for controlling blood sugar levels. Essentially, carbohydrate counting is a way to “budget” the amount of carbohydrate eaten at any meal or snack. This method allows you to choose any type of carbohydrate foods, as long as the portion size you choose allows you stay within your goal “budget.” In general, about half of your daily calories should come from carbohydrate foods. However, if you have diabetes, it is important to eat roughly the same amount of carbohydrate at each meal. Commonly recommended “budgets” are 30 to 45 grams (2 to 3 servings) of carbohydrate per meal for women and 45 to 60 grams (3-4 servings) per meal for men. Both women and men should limit snacks to 15 to 30 grams (1 to 2 servings) of carbohydrates. (Click here for a printable reference chart of carbohydrate servings.) Your Registered Dietitian will determine the right amount of carbohydrates for you, along with guidelines for protein and fat intake.

In addition to carbohydrate budgeting, it is important to space your meals and snacks evenly throughout the day to keep blood sugar levels stable. Experts recommend waiting at least two hours (but no more than five hours) between meals and snacks during the day. This will help prevent your blood sugar level from going too high or too low. <pagebreak>
Here's a sample meal plan that uses the carbohydrate counting method:

Breakfast Carbohydrate Count
1 scrambled egg 0
2 slices whole-grain toast 2.0 (30 grams)
1 tsp margarine 0
1/2 cup orange juice 1.0 (15 grams)
Breakfast Total: 3.0 (45 grams)
Snack 1 Carbohydrate Count
1 medium orange 1.0 (15 grams)
Snack Total: 1.0 (15 grams)
Lunch Carbohydrate Count
1 cup skim milk 1.0 (15 grams)
2 slices bread 2.0 (30 grams)
Low-fat mayo 0
3 oz. turkey 0
Lettuce and tomato 0
Lunch Total: 3 (45 grams)
Snack 2 Carbohydrate Count
6 oz. light yogurt 1.0 (15 grams)
Snack Total: 1.0 (15 grams)
Dinner Carbohydrate Count
1 medium sweet potato 2.0 (30 grams)
1 tsp margarine 0
1 cup skim milk 1.0 (15 grams)
4 oz. baked chicken breast 0
1/2 cup cooked broccoli 0
1 cup salad 0
2 Tbsp low-fat dressing 0
Dinner Total: 3 (45 grams)
Snack 3 Carbohydrate Count
1 small apple, sliced 1.0 (15 grams)
2 Tbsp peanut butter 0
Snack Total 1.0 (15 grams)

2. The Plate Method allows you to visually evaluate the carbohydrates in your meal and the overall nutritional balance in five easy steps:

  • Step #1: Start with a nine-inch plate. Take a ruler and measure across your plate to make sure it is not too large.
  • Step #2: Pretend to divide your plate in half. Then divide one of those halves into two equal sections. Fill one-half of the plate with non-starchy vegetables, either cooked or raw. Fill one-fourth of the plate with a serving of protein. Fill the last fourth of the plate with a carbohydrate-rich food (1 carb serving, 15-grams), using the chart above for examples. *Note: For breakfast, enjoy your meat and grain items each covering one-fourth of your plate; non-starchy vegetables may be omitted in the morning.
  • Step #3: Add 1 cup (8 fl oz) of low-fat milk or 1 container (6-8 oz) of light yogurt to your meal (1 carb serving, 15 grams).
  • Step #4: Select one serving of fruit to go along with your meal (1 carb serving, 15 grams).
  • Step #5: Complete your meal with one or two servings of healthy fats. This could be a tablespoon of salad dressing, 1 or 2 teaspoons of olive oil used to sauté vegetables or a teaspoon of mayonnaise for a sandwich.
For more information about eating with Type 2 diabetes, click here.
For more specific information or help, talk to your health care provider. The American Diabetes Association's National Call Center also offers live advice from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday at 1-800-DIABETES or 1-800-342-2383.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Amy Poetker, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator.
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